Kim Kardashian’s new shapewear hasn’t hit the market yet and it’s already stirring up controversy.
The reality star and multimillionaire makeup mogul revealed her new shapewear brand Kimono on Tuesday. The launch date has not yet been set publicly, but within hours the Internet exploded with accusations of cultural appropriation since the line’s name plays off the traditional Japanese garment.
Still, Kimono’s Instagram following more than doubled overnight — from roughly 42,000 on Tuesday morning to 108,000 Wednesday afternoon. Clearly, some people are still excited about the arrival of the brand.
But while some consumers seem to have mixed feelings about Kardashian’s latest business venture, all the attention might be good news for the shapewear industry. The more shoppers are talking about something, the more likely they are to buy it. And a last name like Kardashian offers some serious equity in the market.
“Her many followers and marketing tactics will give her brand clear advantage,” said Ayako Homma, fashion and luxury consultant at market research firm Euromonitor International.
Spanx has pretty much established itself as the leader in the shapewear market. But there are a number of other names eager to capture some of shapewear’s market share. There’s Hanesbrands, which owns the Maidenform and Bali brands, Ann Chery, Vanity Fair Brands’ Vassarette and Marks & Spencer, along with a number of smaller brands, like Commando, Yummie and Shapermint. Big names like Victoria’s Secret and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty offer form-fitting bodysuits.
Kardashian’s “shape-enhancing underwear brand” allegedly took a decade and a half to come to fruition. “I’ve been passionate about this for 15 years,” she wrote on Instagram.
Famous last names and innovation aside, it’s Kardashian’s advertising methods — broadcasting the launch by way of social media, effectively reaching millions of cell phone-obsessed consumers within minutes — that could make her a real threat.
“Kim Kardashian is cutting out the middleman, so to speak, with her shapewear line and taking her vision to her social media masses,” said Kate Fitzsimons, retail analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “Certainly the value of her social media mentions is likely to have a substantial advertising and traffic-driving benefit, particularly as customers grow more accustomed to shopping online, mobile and social media platforms.”
And shapewear is definitely a category-generating buzz — both in real life and online.
Globally, the women’s intimates’ market — which includes items like bras, underwear and garter belts, in addition to shapewear — was worth nearly $84 billion last year, according to Euromonitor. Shapewear alone was worth about $2 billion the same year, according to a report by Persistence Market Research. Report Buyer, another market research firm, is anticipating the shapewear market will be worth $6.4 billion by 2024.
In the U.S., sales of women’s shapewear grew 2 percent to $518.8 million in the 12 months ending in May, according to NPD’s Consumer Tracking service.
This might seem strange, considering the current body positivity movement and consumer preferences for inclusion. But increased options and innovation have led to a mass market appetite for things like plunging-back bodysuits, high-waisted, tummy-firming briefs and shaping thongs. Meanwhile, nightie fever has helped out innerwear, as celebrities and the average woman alike have been spotted donning nightgowns and slips as everyday dresses.
“While the original purpose of shapewear was to compress one’s body, it is now used to enhance one’s shape and maximize comfort,” Homma explained. “Nineties and 2000’s fashion trends are also contributing to the growing demand for both bodysuits and one-piece swimsuits that are versatile and can be worn as layering pieces year-round.”
Some early entrants into the market say they’re not worried about the added competition.
“We’re really just focused on driving our businesses and making sure that we’re delighting the consumer and also generating a lot of retailer support,” said Tim Blankenbaker, general manager of shapewear at Hanesbrands.
Shapewear revenues at Hanesbrands have grown for the last three quarters.
Blankenbaker added that Hanesbrands is able to reach a larger audience than niche players like Kardashian. Maidenform is available across the price spectrum, from a big-box retailer like Walmart to a store like Macy’s, while Bali can be found at most department stores.
Even so, Kardashian’s business savvy, along with her promises of an inclusive line — ranging in sizes from XXS to 4XL in nine skin tones and a variety of style options (like the one-sided, thigh-high body suits for sexy evening wear) — will help it compete with other brands.
Kimono is Kardashian’s first solo venture in fashion, but she’s no stranger to the retail business. She’s previously collaborated with Carolina Lemke for an eyewear collection and is the creator of the wildly popular beauty line KKW Beauty.
“When you have this kind of brand recognition, you can make a pretty big splash, pretty quickly,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at the NPD Group. “Are they a threat? Yeah, they propose an opportunity to steal some market share. Retailers don’t need to carry that many more brands of shapewear, so there could be some displacement that occurs [in stores]. But I think the real impact it’s going to make is online.”